28 November 2011

It's Nochebuena time again!

It's the time of year again gearing up for our BIG Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) outreach!
Actually, we are getting a late start this year due to my trip to the USA, but, never the less, Christmas Eve will still arrive Dec 24 whether we are ready or not! So...we plan to be ready!
Those not familiar with this, what we do is host a BIG dinner party for families that live alongside the largest land fill dump in Central America.
Actually, the idea is a special night for these people. Most cannot afford a traditional Christmas Eve dinner of tamales, much less presents for their children.
This is a very densely populated neighborhood, very dangerous with gangs, drugs etc. It is very dark spiritually as well, and at Christmas time it is even more depressing for the people there.

Servant team 2010
 So what we do is invite them to a Nochebuena CELEBRATION! 
I form a servant team with the youth we work with from a children's home. These kids have very little themselves, but when given a chance to serve those with less, look out! They spend weeks preparing, practicing songs, practicing a drama for the kids, wrapping gifts, making decorations etc!
Then on the 24th, we rent a bus and go into Zona 3 to Casita Benjamin where we have the event!
The kids decorate the place, lead Christmas carols to begin the program. Then while the adults receive an evangelistic message of hope, our team has a program for the children with a drama and songs.
This year the director at Casita Benjamin and I did some brainstorming and decided to try something new. We are going to hold the first part of our program, singing carols and the evangelistic message, out in the street! Right outside the Casita we will set up speakers and are sure we will draw many more neighbors to come hear the singing and the message! I am very excited for this!

Singing Christmas carols
 Then it's time for dinner, and after dinner each child receives a wrapped gift. We will also provide a basket of basic goods for each family. These baskets contain things like, sugar, rice, pasta, salt, cooking oil, soups, juices, oatmeal, and several other items.
Then after we say Feliz Navidad to the guests, we clean the Casita, load the bus up and return to the children's home.....where.....

Serving dinner
...we do it all again!
Well, most of it. We will sing songs, have another tamale dinner, perform the play, and then watch a movie with everyone there!
All told, between both events, we expect to host dinner for between 300 and 400 people!
It is a TON of work, but is even more fun!
One thing each year on top of it all, is the need to raise the funds to provide all of this.
And each year we have seen God come through for us in amazing, and different ways!
This year was no exception.
While in Texas, visiting Saint Andrew Presbyterian Church in Denton, TX, I was able to meet the missions committee there for the first time. I was happy about this as they have helped us with several ministries the past few years, and with us personally as well. I just wanted a chance to say thank you. They then asked me some questions about what things we had coming up, and I shared some about Nochebuena. But, I never asked for their help. 
Then, the very next day, I was informed they had decided to fully fund our project this year!
So...we are off and running!
Check here over the next month for some updates as we have several events to prepare for Christmas Eve, then the big event itself on December 24th!

La Luz Brilla - Coming soon!

We know there are many people interested in what's happening with La Luz Brilla?
We have exciting news!
But first, let me briefly explain La Luz Brilla for those not aware.
La Luz Brilla is the name for the transition house we have been led to open for young women.
Through our work with lots of young people, virtually all of whom would be called 'high risk' youth, we have seen how as they leave the children's home environment, their chances of success are small at best. And things are getting worse here in Guatemala. Especially for women, culturally, economically, security etc it is very tough to overcome. Add to that the issues of childhood abuse, emotional scars and issues, and the odds become very daunting indeed.

Miriam and Yesica
 That's where we are hoping La Luz Brilla can stand in the gap. We want to provide a safe place where girls can finish their education, and learn to live independently, yet with a safety net to catch them when they stumble.
A place where they can live on their own, yet learn about the basic things to make it, like, how to budget, how to realistically live on a meager income. How to buy groceries, how to do the many things it takes to become successful on your own. We would help provide administration, training, education in some basic living skills, discipleship etc.

Marta and Erika
The need is constantly growing, and we have been waiting on the Lords timing to provide funding needed to open a home.
And He has provided!
We have received a gift from Desert View Baptist Church in Gilbert, AZ that will cover 100% of our projected start-up costs!
So, we are hoping after the first of the year to begin looking for a suitable house to rent, and then begin setting it up to receive young women to live there.
We will still need ongoing monthly support to operate La Luz Brilla, but are trusting the Lord to provide as we get started. 
We are planning to start a sponsorship type program where people can sponsor individual girls and follow as they progress through the process to independence!

If you feel led to be a part of this from the beginning, and help provide a chance at success for some young people that might not get another chance, just ask how!
It's easy....

Back in the U.S. of A.!

So, I guess I had forgotten that November in Washington State can be COLD!
Ha, well, I guess I needed some new sweaters!
I spent the last week of October in Denton, TX, then went to Washington for the first two weeks of November. I had a good time visiting lots of friends and family, and making some new friends also.
I was able to visit many activities at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Denton, TX. They have been helping us with several of our ministries, as well as supporting us personally for the past couple of years, yet we had not had the opportunity to spend much time there or know many people.

Visit with Ellie, our youngest intern so far!
 So, this time I got to meet quite a few people and visit most of their weekly activities!
I was able to speak at the Pastor's Sunday school class, visit several youth activities, a large weekly church dinner etc etc.
I was also able to meet the missions committee for the first time to say thank you and give a brief update on what God is doing in Guatemala!
The next day I was informed that the missions committee had decided to fully fund our Nochebuena outreach at Casita Benjamin! Praise the Lord! I never even asked for help for the event. They asked what we had coming up, and I told them about Nochebuena, but didn't ask for them to fund it!
I also was able to visit a few of our former interns from the Dallas/Denton area, including Ellie, our youngest intern ever!
Also, while in Texas, I was taken to a Dallas Stars hockey game...good time!

Kimber & Sergey with Berkley the dog  
 I left Texas for Washington where I spent the first night in Seattle with my Dad. Then went to Bellingham where I stayed with our daughter, Kimberly, and her husband Sergey. It was the first time we've been together since their wedding and it was great to see their life together after 15 months!

Bellingham in November!
 However, my first morning waking up in Bellingham it was 26 degrees! BBBRRRRRRRRRR
But it was still great because I was so busy, visiting several small groups and lots of people!

Visiting with a Bible study group
 The main purpose of the trip was to seek some additional support as ours has been quite low, so it was a real blessing for me to visit several groups, including one group where I did not know a single person when I arrived!
It was very encouraging to meet people and share about the ministries God has allowed us to be part of. Plus, it always seems to get me more fired up to keep on keeping on!

Jacob and the Pacific Ocean
 In the middle of my time there in Washington, in the cold dampness of Bellingham, I was able to take a 2 1/2 day trip to San Diego to spend time with our son, Jacob. This was a highlight of my trip! It had been probably 7 or 8 years since we had any one on one father/son time.What a huge blessing for me, and I think he enjoyed having me around for a couple of days. We just hung out, and it was very relaxed. 

Greatest sport on Earth! 
Back in Bellingham, I was able to finish my time there celebrating both Kimber and Sergey's birthdays by joining them and a few other friends at a major junior hockey game! My FAVORITE level of hockey to watch anywhere! PRICELESS!
I was able to spend my last Sunday at Northlake, our home church, and spoke at a luncheon and also at the evening service there! It was good to see stability and direction returning after a transition time there.